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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Anderson (R)

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Unusual special session draws to a close

Monday, June 22, 2020

 

By Rep. Paul Anderson

It was a special session unlike any other I've been a part of. In the past, most have lasted a day or so, with agreement on specific legislation usually swift. This one lasted one week, and most of the bills we debated dealt with the Covid-19 response, along with trying to end the governor's emergency powers. And there was the added complexity of trying to reach agreement on legislation dealing with law enforcement in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd.

It ended in the early morning hours of June 20, capping a marathon 20-hour session where agreement could not be reached on the outstanding issues. It left local governments still waiting for their share of a massive federal aid package of Covid-19 funding. It also left unresolved the contentious issue of tightening regulations on the state's law enforcement community.

The CARES Act funding package represented an agreement among the four legislative caucuses. It distributed the maximum amount possible to counties, cities, and townships all across the state, with the exception of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, which, because of their large size, received their money directly from the federal legislation. We aren't talking small potatoes here, as the total was $841 million. The breakdown had $467 going to the remaining 85 counties in the state, $350 going to towns and cities, with the remaining $2 million designated for townships.

Stearns County was set to receiver over $19 million, Douglas County $4.6 million, and Pope County $1.4 million. The totals for some of the larger cities in District 12B included $343,000 for Sauk Centre, $276,000 for Melrose, and $204,000 for Albany. In Douglas County, the city of Alexandria's share was just over $1 million, while in Pope County Glenwood would have received $193,000.

The Senate passed the agreement earlier in the week by a resounding 62-4 vote, but when the identical measure came to the House it had been amended with over $150 million in additional state spending. It was a surprising, if not shocking, move to go back on an agreement that had been reached in good faith. The DFL majority in the House passed their amended bill, but the Senate refused to go along with it.

The funding can still be distributed, however it could already have been on its way out the door had the original bill not been changed. If the governor intends on keeping his emergency powers in place, he must call us back by July 12. In the meantime, we will keep working on reaching agreement on all the outstanding issues, including the CARES funding for local units of government and on ending the governor's peacetime emergency so the Legislature can once again serve as a co-equal branch of government.

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The rains last week were certainly an answer to many prayers, following what seemed like days of relentless wind and high temps. We had received a little over an inch of rain in total for the entire months of April and May and up until last Thursday. The crops were hanging on, but the corn leaves were rolling up in the blast furnace winds in an effort to conserve what little moisture they had left. About 1.5 inches fell at our place, more than doubling the total received for the previous two-plus months.

The lawns are starting to green up again, and the fields are looking much better, too. From reports I've heard, established alfalfa fields with their deep root systems were still doing OK, but newly seeded fields were hurting. I have one field of wheat, and it was starting to head-out when the heat and winds occurred. And those are not the conditions one hopes for when fields of small grain are starting to produce new seeds.

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